Solovetsky Island

bicycle on jetty, Karelia Kola

Solovetsky Islands are in the White Sea between Karelia and Arkhangelsk

They are not easy to get to, but worth the trip. The main island has a population of about 800, and historically a monastery. At Birch Grove Adventures, being more activity based, we are not big on visiting churches or museums, so for us the monastery is a voluntary visit. However the island is very interesting for active travelers, with breathtaking scenery and largely untouched nature.

There is a network of unpaved roads and tracks which can be negotiated by foot, bicycle or 4×4. There are literally hundreds of pristine lakes, natural bush and forest, and of course the shoreline. The shore is littered with little inlets, bays, and the most impressive array of colored rocks. The best way to travel around for fitter people is by bike or foot, with beautiful scenes around every corner. Some of the lakes (about 70) have been connected over the centuries by a canal system, which is navigable by small boat. It is also possible to take a trip to Hare Island nearby.

Dotted around the islands are historic buildings and even some ancient labyrinths from 1000 BC onwards, and are similar to other ancient northern ones in Europe. At that time the islands were a seasonal hunting and fishing ground. Russians drove out Scandanavians from the area in 7th-8th Centuries. Modern Russian permanent population began in the 15th Century with the monastery. Over the centuries there were several sieges, but the monastery prevailed until the Revolution. The main function on the island was a prison for 20 years. The monastery reformed in 1990.

In the village there are several hotels, and even a good café which serves the freshest fish.

Depending on your time, fitness levels and preferences we will put together a super program to explore this unique place, as part of our Karelia Kola program.

There are flights from Arkhangelsk (connecting from Moscow). Our visits to Solovetsky are via a 2 hour ferry ride from Kem. It can be done in a day, but to get to all the interesting spots and do some hiking and/or cycling, an overnight stay on the island is preferred.

Take a look at our suggested tour in Karelia and Kola, which includes Solovetsky. It starts with the train from St Petersburg or Moscow, and takes in the northern part of Karelia and Kola Peninsula. There is a mass of options in terms of 4×4 trips, hiking, fishing. Return to St Petersburg or Moscow by plane from Murmansk.

Tours which take in Solovetsky start in mid-June, and the last is an autumn photo tour in the first week of September.